Is there any evidence that hand washing and not touching one’s face works?

I’m still having a hard time understanding how a large number of people can actually catch COVID after touching a contaminated surface and then touching their face. Doesn’t the virus need to still travel to inside the nose, mouth or eye? I get that it could happen, but can’t imagine it being a common way of transmission. How do we know that this is a real risk? Are there any stats on what proportion of the infected population acquired it in this manner? If I had to guess, I’d assume that well over 90% of the time, it is through breathing in contaminated air.

Yes there is. In past epidemics like polio and ebola proper barrier nursing resulted in transmission falling to near zero amongst nurses and their patients.

However you are asking for a definite answer to a new disease, and you simply can’t state for sure something until a proper amount of time has passed.

For instance, when HIV broke out, no one knew how it was transmitted, but one thing was clear, despite the hysteria, it was hard to get. If it wasn’t you would’ve saw a situation like this, instead of the one that developed.

Still it took a long time to rule out transmission methods of HIV. With the coronavirus, you can’t really ever know. For instance again, there was an article on a bus drive in NY complaining about a coughing passenger. This went viral and now he’s dead. But we don’t know how the driver got it, or even if the coughing passenger had it. Still it makes a good story.

How about this? It’s specifically concerned with dental practices but a surface is a surface.

TLDR: Covid-19 might be new but Coronaviruses – specifically SARS and MERS – are not and their routes of infection are pretty well known.

I’m going to try to ask this without as little snark as I can muster.

Why the fuck does it matter if most patients get it through breathing contaminated air? Let’s assume that you’re right and that is the mode of transmisson 90% of the time. If we could reduce the infection rate by 10% just by getting people to wash their hands more, don’t you think we should do that? Do you think 10% is a piddly amount or something? Because it isn’t, especially when we’re talking about millions of people being infected.

I could understand your concern if there were huge downsides to handwashing. Unless you’re obsessively washing to the point of bleeding and cracked skin, there aren’t any.

An article on Coronavirus and the eyes.


So yes, it looks like the probability of getting infected through the eye is low. However, there are anecdotal reports that red eyes are not rare in COVID-19 patients.

But as I said upthread, so the fuck what if eyes aren’t the most common route of infection? We can’t control the air we breathe, but we can control the cleanliness of our hands and what we do with them.

It strikes me, tho, that one wrinkle concerns the types of surfaces one is coming in contact with. The other day I found myself washing my hands after just moving about within my house, not having touched anything that had been outside my house in many hours - more likely days. Sure, there is not harm from such washing (other than possibly dry skin, so use lotion). But it does contribute to my questioning whether a certain sort of precautions eliminate the vast majority of risk, and then whether additional precautions “make sense.” Heck, I’m not stopping w/ a mask, but just to make sure, I’m tying a plastic bag over my head! :wink:

Here’s why: It is very difficult to get the majority of people to be conscious of, and more importantly, execute each and every “best practice”. I’ve commuted to NYC, via mass transit, for over 2 decades and have been religious about never touching my face after my hands have been in contact with any outside object. I wrote in another thread that the simple inclusion of adding a mask to my process made me touch my face a few times at a drug store the other day.

If there is a way to keep things simple, and get people to focus fully on not spreading through the air, the net positive benefit could be improved. So I think it’s worth asking the question. And if the conclusion is that, say 99% of cases are spread through the air, that could also lead to more efficient allocation of our limited resources. Like maybe widespread production and distribution of N-95 masks.

My “devil’s advocate” issue, and I acknowledge that I could be way off-base, is the actual mechanics of how it can spread that easily unless one was to actually use their unwashed hands to touch the inside of their mouth, nose or eye. So to me, simply washing ones hands before touching one’s face could be enough direction. And even if the virus is delivered to the skin on the face, there still needs to be another delivery to within an orifice.

No one but fools expect every single person to execute each and every best practice. The best that we can hope for is that a critical mass of people execute the one or two best practices that are the easiest for them to remember.

Most people are taught from an early age the importance of handwashing. This should already be in the average person’s repertoire. It isn’t THAT difficult.

What is difficult is getting people not to touch their face. But this can be mitigated through a strict handwashing regimen.

I got some a few packets of individually wrapped Wet Ones the other day with my take-out order. So I’ve been using them to wipe off my hands and face when I am out in public. Yes, this is a nuisance to do but it isn’t THAT difficult to do. If enough people were to do this, we definitely make a difference in the infection rate.

And? All that tells me is that there face masks are not a perfect solution. No one said they were.

I touch my face a lot when I don’t wear a mask. When I’m wearing one, I find myself touching my face through the mask. Which is better than my grubby face making contact with my face, right? Yes, there may be people who wind up touching their face more when they wear a mask, at least initially. But if the most common route of transmission (inhalation) is impeded signficantly by wearing the mask, then the small uptick in the rate of infection through other routes isn’t that big of a deal. Wear some glasses if that will help keep your fingers out of your eyes. It isn’t rocket science.

Wear a mask.
Wash your hands frequently.
Limit how much you touch your face.
Don’t rub your eyes.
Keep at least 6 feet between you and another person.

You’re acting like these things require a Ph.D to understand and implement. If people just pick one of these things and stick with it, then we can make a dent on the infection rate. But I think most people can do at least three of them. You do people a disservice if you give them one or two options and make them think those are the only things they can do.

You think the emphasis on handwashing is diverting away resources that could be going into masks? Poor planning is why we don’t have masks. If we had an unlimited supply of N95s, we would still be encouraging people to washing their hands and avoid touching their face. Because there are little downsides to doing this.

You want a simple message for the masses but you think this nuance is important? “It’s OK to touch your orifices, people, as long as you wash your hands first!” is neither simple or safe. Some people think running their hands through the water for a second is “washing” them. Some people think a five-minute interval between handwashing and nose-picking is a negligible amount of time. Some people think rubbing their eyes is different than poking around under the eyelids. A simple message is “Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face as much as possible.” People can do either or both of these things and lower their risk of getting infected.

only downside to more handwashing is slightly higher water bill if you pay for water. Rural area people have wells and sometimes in a long drought they can go dry.

I’m certainly not advocating for reduced handwashing. But have you seen the public’s questions that CNN sometimes scrolls at the bottom of their shows? It’s obvious that many people haven’t read a single article or paid attention to a single broadcast on the subject. This suggests that they haven’t been practicing the guidelines to date, and certainly haven’t been keeping up as the guidelines change. The governor of Georgia is a great example, as he just recently found out that the virus could be spread by someone who is asymptomatic. Even the freakin’ mayor of NYC has said a couple of head-smacking things that concern the hell of out of me. So if there’s a way to, for lack of a better term, “dumb down” the message, perhaps it can result in a better ultimate outcome.

The governor is a lying liar. Please don’t use him as an example of anything.

In kindness I would ask you to always reverse the order of these. Social distancing is, by far, the most important of these. Our medical personnel are contracting the virus despite face masks because they have high exposure to the virus.

People are desperate for something they can do. A face mask is not a mask of invulnerability, but people are going to treat it as such. Social distancing is far, far more important.